Tag: Comics (page 3 of 6)


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Not every adaptation has to be 100% accurate in its translation of the source material. I mean, honestly, how would the Lord of the Rings film trilogy had been helped by the presence of Tom Bombadil? In spite of his absence, the films are faithful to the spirit of the books, encapsulating the epic journeys of the Fellowship and the struggle to overcome the forces of evil. I bring this up because Lady Death suffers from a problem entirely different from missing a couple incidental characters. It’s missing just about everything that made the original enjoyable.

Courtesy ADV

Lady Death got her start in the now-defunct CHAOS! Comics, the brainchild of Brian Pulido and the late Steven Hughes. She was initially cast merely as the eye-candy head-girlfriend of flagship character Evil Ernie, but proved popular enough that she got her own stories in the form of several mini-series and the occasional unrelated but not-unwelcome ‘swimsuit’ issue. Her story was that of a young girl named Hope who had the misfortune of being labeled a witch in Mideval Europe. Burning at the stake, she cries out to anyone or anything that can save her, and Lucifer answers. Hope has no desire to suffer in Hell has she did in life, but is told by Lucifer that she will never go free as long as living men walk the Earth. Hope’s answer is to hook up with a renegade eldritch blacksmith and vow to kill every single human being on the planet just to stick it to Lucifer. Now there’s a female empowerment story for you!

The movie takes a slightly different tack from a plot perspective. Instead of looking to get one over on Old Scratch, Hope undergoes her transformation and training for a more straight-up showdown scenario, the plan being for her to overthrow Lucifer and reign in Hell as a slightly less prickish potentate. The intent was to make Lady Death a little bit more of a ‘positive’ heroine instead of an anti-heroine. At least, that’s my understanding. While the concept alone takes away from some of the uniqueness of her character, it doesn’t dilute her symbolism. A woman consistently and thoroughly screwed over by men taking up arms to overthrow a male oppressor is still in keeping with Pulido’s original concept. While Lady Death can face challenges or even defeat, she never, ever plays the victim.

Courtesy CHAOS! Comics
We miss you, Steve.

The same cannot be said for the rest of the source material. Pulido and Hughes were never afraid to veer into camp territory occasionally, and more than once you’ll catch Lady Death enjoying the slaughter she visits upon those in her path, sporing one of Hughes’ trademark grins. The movie’s masters, on the other hand, seem to have drained all of the life and joy out of Lady Death’s character along with her skin color. While playing her as more of the stereotypical stoic anti-hero might seem more fitting of the character by virtue of her name, both Brian Pulido and Neil Gaiman would tell you that a character named Death need not be… well, dead.

A big part of this major flaw in the movie comes from the era in which Lady Death was born. You see, in the 90s there was a trend of comic book protagonists who had some connection to the afterlife, be it J.O. Barr’s resurrected avenger The Crow or Todd MacFarlane’s anti-hero-from-Hell Spawn. While J.O. did it better than just about anybody else, there was no shortage of pretenders to this genre and the concurrent explosion of dark, edgy entertainment just about anywhere you looked. The explosion of the goth subculture seemed to have a lot of young people dressing in black and extolling the virtues of these damned heroes. Lady Death, in retrospect, seems to have had purpose that was two-fold, at least while she was under the control of CHAOS! – bring a much-needed female protagonist into this mix, and take the piss out of the genre at the same time by letting Lady Death enjoy being an infernal vixen of might and destruction. She never seems to enjoy anything she does in the movie, and the whole thing suffers as a result.

Courtesy ADV
I could do better line work than this. And I suck.

It also suffers from some of the choppiest animation I have ever seen. I’ve indulged in more than my share of both anime and US-grown cartoons. ADV Films usually distributes anime, but don’t be fooled by the emblem on this thing. This is nowhere near as good as Evangelion or Berserk in terms of art or execution. The whole thing feels rushed, like it’s more the result of a high-schooler’s Lady Death fan-fiction brought to life than the concerted effort of a serious animation studio. And if it were based on a fanfic, there’d be a bit more titillation going on. A big part of Lady Death’s appeal has been her look and the way she casually flaunts her sexuality, even if the art that followed in the wake of Steve’s unfortunate passing dialed down the nihilistic glee that was just as much a part of her character as her skimpy outfits. But the lackluster nature of this animation means that there isn’t much enjoyment to be had looking at her. Add some flat voice acting, a plodding story pace and a total lack of originality to the mix and you have about a hundred minutes of completely wasted time.

Don’t take this review as a condemnation of Lady Death. On the contrary, even after a few reboots she still functions as the rare female protagonist in comic books who isn’t over-sexualized or completely undermined by the presence of males. Sure, she’s fun to look at, but her exploits are usually just as much fun to read. Seek out her books if you’d like to find out more about her, but as for the movie, skip it. Your time would be better spent finding some of that fan-fiction I mentioned. Especially if it crosses over with, say, Vampirella or something.

Courtesy CHAOS! Comics
…Apparently, this is a canon crossover. …AWESOME.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

Multiple Multiverses

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

They’re everywhere. They persist in existing when logic and reason insist they shouldn’t. They entice us with wonders and haunt us with dangers. They are worlds beyond our own, worlds beyond even the basic strictures of the fantasies we create. Other worlds, other planes, other universes – and we’re at the crossroads.

Take for example the different campaigns of Dungeons & Dragons. The lovely lady above is a witch from Dark Sun, a desolate world that subscribes to many of the same strictures and conventions as the ‘default’ D&D worlds such as Greyhawk and Mystara, but sets itself apart with its intelligent bug-people and malevolent sorcerer-kings. Ravenloft got a bit of the World of Darkness treatment around the time of version 3.5 but remains a dark, corrupted reflection of more heroic (if somewhat forgotten) realms. All of them are tied together by Sigil, the City of Doors, an environment so rich and deep it got its own campaign setting for a while. The prevelance of these different worlds grew to such a degree, however, that Sigil became folded into the ‘default’ setting. While shaving down the distinction between a ‘default’ D&D campaign and a Planescape campaign causes Sigil to lose some of its lustre, it also opens many doors for DMs to take their campaigns beyound the setting they’ve chosen and into brave new worlds. Except for Ravenloft, of course. You do NOT want to go to Ravenloft if you weren’t born there. Paladins especially. I get chills just thinking about it.

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Mirrodin’s razorgrass

Magic: the Gathering is a similar setting. Each player is a planeswalker, a wizard or other arcanist gifted with a ‘spark’ that allows them to channel their powers into travelling between different planes of existence. There is the ‘default’ plane of Dominaria, which has been expanded upon, invaded and nearly destroyed more than once. Some are lush places where planeswalkers are practically on vacation, such as Lorwyn, while others like Zendikar might as well hang a big ‘Keep Out’ sign on the front which planeswalkers are sure to ignore because, hey, there’s loot there. I personally happen to be a fan of Mirrodin, the plane of metal, because that’s where all the best equipment comes from, and those myr are just too damn cute.

Courtesy DC Comics These are both fantastical and somewhat clean examples of this sort of multilateral storytelling. For a messer but more popular example, look no further than DC Comics. I won’t go into laborious detail over DC’s multiverse – MovieBob’s already done that – but it’s taken almost two decades for things to shake themselves out since the Crisis on Infinite Earths. And they’re not done yet.

If you have a favorite multi-faceted universe, what would it be?

Paging Doctor Strange

Courtesy Marvel Studios

As much as I never really got into reading his stories on a regular basis, I’m a big fan of Doctor Strange.

Marvel’s a world full of armored geniuses, super-soliders and Viking gods. Standing right beside them is this bookworm, a former surgeon who managed to become Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme? How did he do it? Did he stumble across a magical MacGuffin or get touched by an angel or bitten by a magical spider?

No. He worked for it.

Granted, his origin story isn’t a terribly noble one, but this is Marvel we’re talking about. Strange was a gifted surgeon who cared more about his wealth and reputation than actually helping people. He got involved in an auto accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. He lost much of the fine manipulation necessary to be a surgeon. Stubborn and vain, Strange refused to take a position as a consultant or practice ‘lesser’ medicine and hunted down every potential cure he could find. His search was fruitless and drained his fortune, leaving him a destitute back-alley doctor, his reputation lost and his bar tabs mounting. Finally, he heard word of someone called “the Ancient One,” pawned the last of his possessions to seek the hidden monastery, and begged for the Ancient One to heal him.

The Ancient One refused. Furious, Strange very nearly left only to see the Ancient One beset by mysical forces. His curiosity overwhelmed his frustration and he began to speak to the Ancient One as a pupil does to a student. Uncovering treachery and trying to warn the master, Strange overcame his selfishness and vowed to combat the evil he’d seen with his own eyes. Through years of study and practice, he became a sorcerer and one of the foremost minds of the arcane in the world.

He’s been through a lot. He’s faced all sorts of challenges from the likes of Doctor Doom to personifications of cosmic forces. He’s survived them all, with nothing more than the contents of old scrolls and his own quick thinking. And he has never, ever gone back to thinking only about himself. At every turn, he’s contributed to the greater good of the world around him.

How is this not something to which we should aspire? Doctor Strange is a shining example of the proper response to hubris and hardship. Despite all his challenges, all he’s lost, he soldiers on, taking on the next obstacle as resolutely as possible. He never gives up. Even when he loses the title of Sorcerer Supreme, he holds on to his abilities not to pursue his own aims, but to help from the sidelines, advise from the shadows. He still refuses to give up on a world that would have given up on him long ago.

Courtesy Marvel Studios I have to wonder if, these days, walking as he does with a sullen disposition and rocking a mean trenchcoat, he ever thinks back to those days as a surgeon, to the way he’d casually light a cigarette the moment he’s out of the operating room ensuring the patient can pay for the life-saving medicine he just administered. Since becoming a sorcerer, he’s never demanded payment, never asked for special recognition or reward. Even when he’s all but bugged to remain with Luke Cage’s New Avengers, he politely and humbly tries to tell them he’s not worthy to stand among them, that his mistakes are too great, his burdens too much for others to bear. Yet he has borne the hardships of others many times, and when Strange finally cracks the smallest of smiles, it’s a greater statement than reams of text could make.

Brian Michael Bendis and Grant Immoren are doing a fantastic job with Strange. I’m glad to see him in this current form and look forward to more. When I was a child, I was fascinated with the magic. Nowadays, I’m fascinated by the man.

Little Changes

Courtesy DC
Think of a favorite story of yours, or a beloved character. Chances are there are things about that story or character you take for granted. Here are some examples: Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way. Aragorn is proud of his heritage and wishes to reclaim his throne. Buffy learns of her destiny as a Slayer while she’s a cheerleader in high school. Tyr’s hand is devoured by a dire wolf named Fenrir.

Change one thing about any of those stories, and everything changes.

Warren Ellis changed one thing about Superman. If his spaceship had crashed on Earth twelve hours earlier, it would have landed in Sibera, not Kansas. Hence, Red Son, one of the most audacious and comprehensive Elseworlds stories I’ve ever read. No aspect of the DC Universe is unaffected by this one matter of timing, from Kal-El’s relationship with Diana of the Amazons to Hal Jordan’s origin as a Green Lantern. Superman becomes a heroic symbol of Communist Russian under Stalin, all because of the Earth’s rotation.

Courtesy New Line Cinema

Aragorn changed in Peter Jackson’s films. Instead of reforging Narsil the red-hot second he reaches Rivendell in his eighty-sixth year, Aragorn shrinks from his destiny. He fears the weakness of men, unconvinced that the blood of Numenor makes him any different from the weak and corrupt people he’s met and will meet. While some die-hard fans of Tolkien’s works threw back their heads and howled at this change (among others), I found this made his character deeper, more realistic and much more interesting and appealing. How many of us are that confident in our own abilities, our own destinies? How many of us entertain doubts about our futures and our capacity to meet the challenges awaiting us? Aragorn, despite his long lifespan and epic destiny, seems much more like us, and thus we are drawn deeper into his story and that of the Fellowship.

Courtesy WB

Imagine if Buffy found out she was a Slayer at a younger age. Let’s say she’s six years old, her daddy’s attacked by a vampire at an amusement park and she stakes it with a popsicle stick. Just pure instinct: she jumps onto the monster and drives the wood home through sheer panic. How would her story change? How shallow would she really be with blood on her hands at such a young age? Or go the other direction. Buffy’s in her twenties, married to some pretty jerk who has no time for her, so she fills her days shopping and gossiping. It could be like any episode of Sex & the City until the vampires get involved. How reluctant would she be to respond to the call? What if her husband tried to turn things around given her drastic change in lifestyle, only to discover she’s had an affair with Angel? Think about it.

I mentioned Tyr because of The Drifter’s Hand, obviously. It was more a change of genre than a change of events, but it was still an interesting exercise. It’s extended into other works as well, as the fourth (and final?) draft of Citizen in the Wilds proceeds. I changed a few things, dialed back some characters to let others grow in a different way. The results are a definite improvement. The downside is, more rewriting is required. But if the end result works better, it will be worth it.

What stories would you change, if you could?

Our Heroes And Their Booze


I was thinking about putting together a post on the death of the newspaper. I was going to invoke the classic film All The President’s Men and the more recent State of Play. I was then going to ask where journalistic integrity has gone. But now I realize that was going to go in a political direction and I promised I’d keep politics and religion out of the blog. That’s what WhineLiveJournal is for. Thanks to Chuck, I am no longer thinking of such things. I am, instead, thinking about booze.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the alcohol they drink. I’m not entirely sure WHO says that, but I know it’s been said. The same goes for fictional characters, or at least I believe it should. Let’s look at a few to see how the saying holds up.

And if I just coined it, I want a dime any time anybody says it.

Courtesy Disney

Captain Jack Sparrow

It’s Talk Like A Pirate Day and I’m sparing ye… er, you the increased difficulty of reading this post in pirate-speak. Instead, let’s look at the chosen intoxicant of one of the craziest and coolest pirates ever to sail the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow. Sorry, that’s Captain Jack Sparrow.

Jack is defined by a question. Normally it’s not “Who am I?” or “Which magical MacGuffin will get us out of this particular mess?” No, that question usually is “Why is the rum gone?” Considering how much rum there was to be had in the West Indies, it’s not surprising this was Jack’s booze of choice. But what does it say about him?

Rum is distilled from sugarcane by-products, usually yielding a sweeter drink that’s more palatable on its own than, say, vodka or tequila. You don’t need to chase a shot of straight rum with salt and the juice of a lemon. Technically you don’t need to do that with tequila either, but I happen to be fond of my taste buds and would prefer them unscalded. Anyway, it’s easier to drink by itself and, as I mentioned, there was a lot of it floating around the West Indies during the time period in which the Pirates of the Caribbean films are set.

So it was easy to acquire, easy to drink, easy to carry around. Jack likes things easy. He doesn’t even need a big ship, technically speaking. The last shot in the last film is Jack, alone, in a little dinghy with a magic map and plenty of rum. No attachments, no worries, no responsibility. That’s Jack in a nutshell. Or a dinghy, rather. For all of his antics, spontaneous flashes of genius in concocting gambits and daring acts of heroism, he’d just as soon not be bothered. He’s concerned when the rum is gone not just because he’s without booze – it means he actually has to do shit.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

The Dude

Here’s a guy you’ll never see swinging on a rope, sword-fighting with Lovecraftian horrors or even pulling one over on the smarmy merchant prince who wants to put an end to piracy (explain again why this is a bad thing) – Jeff Lebowski. “The Dude”. The epitome of slackerhood. His drink of choice is the White Russian. The Caucasian. Damn close to the only alcoholic beverage my wife can stand.

She likes Woodchuck, though, so she does have good taste. Other than marrying Yours Truly.

Back to the Dude. His drink is a combination of vodka, coffee liqueur and half-and-half. Now, breaking these elements down, it’s a surprisingly effective mixture. Vodka is made from grain or potatoes, and as far as I’m concerned, is specifically designed to get you drunk as quickly and cheaply as possible. Even good vodka takes on the flavors of whatever you mix with it, meaning cheap vodka only tastes like vodka if you drink it straight. Mix it with something like coffee liqueur and you’re not only doubling the booze presence but covering up the turpentine-like vodka with something halfway palatable. The half-and-half smooths the drink out, giving it more of the creamy consistency of a glass of milk or an iced latte.

The Dude, then, knows he wants to get drunk but isn’t going to pound tequila shooters to do it. The most expensive item in the list is the liqueur and even that isn’t all that pricey. Somewhere along the line, he realized the best way to make a consistently drinkable alcoholic beverage and figured out the right mix so it comes out well every time. He’s a creature of habit, and more intelligent than he lets on. And even if he runs out of something, the grocery store still takes checks, right? The Dude abides.

Courtesy LionsGate

The Punisher

On the other side of things, we have Frank Castle. This isn’t really touched on in the comics, but in the first recent film, starring the somewhat underrated Thomas Jane, we see Frank drinking Wild Turkey straight from the bottle. A lot. His regimen of physical activity, such as blowing up bad guys and causing head trauma to assassins with a paper cutter blade keeps him from falling out of shape due to this habit. But for the taciturn Frank, the bourbon speaks volumes.

Bourbon is a corn derivative that’s usually pretty strong – 80 proof, or about 43% alcohol per volume. Wild Turkey is even more powerful, weighing in at 101 proof which puts at 50% apv. It’s also thoroughly American. Now, you can do things like mix it with Coke or water to dilute its potency, but the ‘manly’ thing to do is a straight shot. Or several in a row.

Clearly, then, Frank isn’t somebody who messes around. When he wants to get drunk, he does it fast and hard. The same way he takes down mob peons and destroys the lives of their bosses. He drinks his bourbon the way he shoots his guns – straight, fast and intent on maximum damage. Despite the fact he’s doing this damage to himself, we know he can take it because he is the motherfucking Punisher.

Courtesy LionsGate
Booze or no, I would not want to pick a fight with this guy.

Name a favorite character of yours whom you’ve seen boozing. What was the booze? What do you think it says about them?

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